RALEIGH -- It wasn't as if Chad LaRose couldn't have played hockey last year, that he knew the time had come to end his career.
The former Carolina Hurricanes forward said there was the option of going to Europe, that he could have found a team, found a way to stay in professional hockey.
"But I couldn't give somebody me, I couldn't give them 100 percent of me," LaRose said Sunday. "I wasn't into the game anymore and I didn't think it was fair to give somebody 60 or 70 percent of me.
"I had just built up a lot of anger towards the game. I wanted to get away. I didn't know that I would ever play again, to be honest. … I fell out of love with the sport and didn't have any passion for it. But sometimes you have to lose what you have to realize what you had."
That's why he's back. LaRose, 32, has signed an AHL contract and will attempt to make a comeback -- first with the Charlotte Checkers in the AHL and hopefully, he said, one day with the Hurricanes.
LaRose suffered a quadriceps injury in training this summer that kept him off the ice for eight weeks. But he has been skating with Canes assistant coach Rod Brind'Amour after the Canes' training camp practices at PNC Arena and said he hopes to be ready when the Checkers begin their camp.
"It's good to be back and I'm grateful for the opportunity," he said. "I'm going to give it my all. I'm really excited to be back in this organization."
LaRose’s play always has been fueled by a passion for the game, by his spunk and energy. Only 5-10 and 175 pounds, he was undrafted by NHL teams but worked his way through the ECHL and AHL to the Hurricanes and the NHL, then put his name on the Stanley Cup in 2006.
By the end of the 2012-2013 lockout season, LaRose had been in more than 500 games for the Canes and No. 59 was a favorite among many Canes fans. But Carolina missed the playoffs again that season and LaRose more or less stormed away, angry, passing up his exit interview with team management.
LaRose said the anger "just built up over the years" and finally spilled over.
"You get mad at yourself and build up doubt in your own head if you're even good enough to play anymore," he said. "You play that mental game with yourself."
As for leaving the team in a huff, LaRose said, "When you don't make the playoffs, it's tough. It's tough on a lot of guys. I put a lot of pressure on myself.
"But you can't go in the past anymore. You can't go back. If you could I would, but I can't. All I can do is look forward and be grateful for the opportunity I have and give everything I've got."
When NHL free agency began, no team came calling. But the year away, LaRose said, "Helped me mentally clear out my mind." The training continued unabated in Michigan before his injury, and he said he put in three days a week with power-skating coach Kim Muir, who has worked with him since he was a teenager.
Canes general manager Ron Francis has given LaRose the chance to return. He plans to take it from there.
"I realized the things we accomplished here, that I accomplished here. and it makes you want to do it agai,” he said.
Can he make it back to the NHL, to the Canes?
"Definitely," he said. "I can bring passion and energy to a team, for sure. I can do it in the AHL, too. It's going to be a great thing for me there, as well.
"I know I'm going to have to work my butt off down there to be a good player in the American League. I don't expect any free rides. I don't expect anything."